retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

In this new world of e-commerce and viral marketing, it’s wonderful to find an example of creative messaging breaking through big time. It reminds us that it still can be done and that even traditional companies can find a way - as we frequently call for here - to give both the ordinary and special an extra something.

And in this case, it begins with the Cleveland Browns, possibly the most unsuccessful sports team in North America at the moment.

Last Thursday, the Browns won a game, which for them is quite an event. The last time the Browns won was nearly 700 days earlier or late in the 2016 season. That’s the very definition of a dry spell.

But as good as the game was for the team, it was better for the creative marketing minds at Budweiser, who for years now have set a high bar for such performance. At the start of this season, Budweiser placed special coolers filled with Bud Light in bars all around the city. Each was chained closed and locked with a padlock and a sign explaining that when the Browns finally won, all of Cleveland would win with free beer.

It became a huge story in the sports world and exploded all over the Internet - especially when the Browns broke their streak of futility. Twitter was replete with details, such as how each lock needed a traditional key and how at times the wait was an interminable five minutes in some bars. There were countless photos of fans opening the coolers and toasting their team with Bud Light and pictures of fans at the Browns’ game itself holding up signs saluting Bud Light and counting down the minutes to the suds.

It all is a wonderful reminder of how marketing and merchandising doesn’t always need to focus on the obvious and traditional. Someone at Bud clearly saw the potential in first, the Browns actually winning (it had to happen eventually!), and second, the ability to own that moment in a very unique way.

The era of e-commerce competition constantly challenges more traditional companies to look for new ways to compete and connect by delighting or exciting shoppers or finding ways to build new experiences. No longer is simple convenience the way to win them over, especially when that same shopper can just sit on their sofa and remind Siri or Alexa to order up the next case of beer.

What’s more it certainly isn’t usual times in the beer industry with younger drinkers increasingly moving to local craft brews.

More than ever, we need creativity to create a winning advantage and Bud Light deserves a huge salute for that. There’s special irony that the event surrounded a Cleveland team because in many ways the city has proven the same point. Once derided as the “mistake by the lake” and mocked for the local river catching fire due to pollution, Cleveland is a different place these days. Thanks to the Rock and Roll hall of fame, Cleveland is a pretty cool place to visit, with a welcoming downtown and, obviously, lots of bars where Bud Light clearly has a special place in everyone’s heart.

There’s a reason today why Cleveland Rocks. Bud Light does too, as does great marketing and merchandising.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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